The National Union of Eritrean Women closely coordinates with the Ministry of Agriculture and local administrations to promote participation of women in village/district agricultural committees. The Ministry of Agriculture guidelines insist that at least one member of the three-to-five-member committees should be a woman. The practice is to nominate members of the National Union of Eritrean Women on the committees to make representation more effective. There are indications that where there is effective representation of women on those committees, there is a better chance for women farmers to be aware of and benefit from the services available (extension, tractor hire, farming inputs and microcredit).
One successful venture worth mentioning here is the introduction of the improved cooking stove by the Eritrean Energy Research Centre in collaboration with the National Union of Eritrean Women and the Ministry of Agriculture. The improved stove, which saves up to 50 per cent of fuel (mainly wood) and has better ventilation, is a major contribution to reducing Eritrea’s alarming rate of deforestation, reduces the amount of time women have to spend collecting fuelwood and improves rural women’s working conditions. The improved stove received the 2003 Ashden Overseas Food Security Award (Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy). The National Union of Eritrean Women is a key partner in promoting the improved stove in rural Eritrea.
Paragraph 28. Legal counselling unit, awareness and Government funding?
As is the case with the National Union of Eritrean Women overall, the Legal Counselling Unit has a share of the regular financial resources made available by the Government, in addition to support extended through technical assistance programmes.
Efforts are continuous to make the services of the Unit reach rural women. This is done primarily through the basic legal literacy programme among National Union of Eritrean Women members in the local offices. Those members thus trained then serve as local tentacles for the Legal Counselling Unit. The legal literacy programme is not, however, limited to Union members. In subsequent phases, local administrators, community leaders and the newly elected community court magistrates have also been covered. That was found to be a more effective approach.
The programme is ongoing. As mentioned above, a legal literacy manual is currently being prepared as part of the efforts to expand and improve the performance of the programme. See also response to paragraph 4 above.
Paragraph 29. Legal age of marriage and practices
Data is not available regarding underage marriage, forced marriage and betrothal.
Paragraph 30. Customary marriage, divorce and legal protection
Marriages contracted according to the religion of the parties or in accordance with the rites of the local custom are valid pursuant to article 577 (2) of the Transitional Civil Code. However, article 652 (1) provides that marriage produces the same legal effects, whatever the form according to which it has been celebrated. Subarticle 2 of the same reinforces the foregoing provision by providing that “no distinction shall be made as to whether the marriage has been celebrated before an officer of civil status or according to the forms prescribed by religion or custom”. Therefore, the validity of all forms of marriage being untouched, effects of marriage remain the same, irrespective of whether the marriage is celebrated in accordance with the rites of religion or local custom. Marriage or betrothal celebrated in accordance with the rites of the Muslim religion is the only exception; sharia governs the latter.